Spaghetti Tuna Puttanesca

Here's a quick pasta that you can pull together in a pinch! This is a people-pleasing version of Pasta alla Puttanesca, substituting tuna instead of anchovies.

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Spaghetti Tuna Puttanesca in a large sauteuse pan with tongs sticking out of it.

Quick and Easy Pasta

This Spaghetti Tuna Puttanesca is quick and easy to prepare. If you have a few pantry staples, you can have a delicious pasta dinner in about 20 minutes. All you need is some dried spaghetti, garlic, a can of tomatoes, some olives, capers and a can of tuna fish. These are all things I keep on hand most of the time, so it’s a last minute, easy dinner fix.

Tongs placing spaghetti with a red sauce into a blue bowl.

What is Puttanesca?

Puttanesca is a classic Italian pasta sauce made with tomatoes, garlic, olives, capers, chili flake and anchovies. I’m a big fan of anchovies, but not everyone is, so substituting tuna for the anchovy in this Spaghetti Tuna Puttanesca is a people-pleasing option. In addition, most people do have a can of tuna on hand, whereas anchovies are a little less common. Puttanesca was originally created as a cheaper alternative to a meat-based pasta sauce and legend has it that it was named in the brothels of Italy where the “ladies of the house” would make it to entice clients into their place of work. (Puttana is Italian for “whore”.) All I know is that it is delicious and easy to make.

Spaghetti Tuna Puttanesca in a blue bowl with a fork and lemon wedge.

Ingredient Substitutions

Because I expect this is something you’ll make in a pinch, with just ingredients you have in your kitchen, here are some substitutions you can make:

  • No tuna fish? Substitute any canned fish you have on hand – salmon, anchovies, even sardines.
  • No spaghetti? Substitute any pasta – linguine and fettucine would be my first options, but penne, farfalle or any dried pasta works.
  • No olives? You can use any type of olive – kalamata, gaeta, black, green, oil-cured, brined, you could even use a prepared tapenade instead.
  • No capers? Leave them out and add a little more olive. Also, make sure to give the pasta a good squeeze of lemon at the end.
  • No shallot? Use ¼ cup of finely minced onion.
  • No oregano? Use the same amount of dried thyme.

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Spaghetti Tuna Puttanesca

  • Prep Time: 5 m
  • Cook Time: 15 m
  • Total Time: 20 m
  • Servings:


  • 12 ounces thin spaghetti
  • Olive oil
  • 1 small shallot minced
  • 1 to 2 cloves garlic minced
  • ⅛ - ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ cup oil-cured or kalamata olives quartered
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
  • 1 5-ounce can white tuna, drained
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley divided
  • ½ lemon
  • Parmesan cheese for serving


  1. Bring a stockpot of water to the boil. Season it generously with salt and cook the spaghetti al dente according to the package directions. When you drain the pasta, reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.
  2. Pre-heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Drizzle a little olive oil into the pan and sauté the shallot and garlic for 1 minute. Stir in the red pepper flakes, oregano, olives and capers. Sauté for another minute. Add the canned tomatoes to the pan while crushing them with your hands. Lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the sauce starts to thicken. Stir in the tuna and gently simmer for 5 more minutes. Stir in the half of the chopped fresh parsley. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Add the cooked pasta to the pan and toss with the sauce. If needed, add some reserved pasta water to loosen the sauce.
  4. Transfer to serving bowls, season with a squeeze or wedge of lemon if desired and top with the remaining parsley and grated Parmesan cheese.
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Comments (4)Post a Reply

  1. 5 stars
    It was quite good and a different taste for me. I used herbes de provence instead of oregano/thyme and didn’t have any parsley and I used up my left over mozzarella. Delicious! And I have loads of leftovers in my freezer! Thanks for the recipe!

  2. The gravy sounds great. However, I think I will substitute ground beef for the tuna. Not a fan of fish of any kind.

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